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  • Writer's pictureSara McNabb

Transcript of Season 1, Episode 3

Episode 3: “Sole Witness”


RA: This is my second day back in Etta. Well, technically first full day, I guess, since I got in last night. Beverly, in case I’ve ended up handing these recordings off to you for editing because I don’t have time, these are just notes so I can capture thoughts while I’m in the middle of a location. I’ll record setup and intro material in the studio as needed -- Unless I happen to catch something important on the live mike while rambling like I’m doing right now. Okay, thoughts . . . Etta’s like anyplace else, just on a small scale: There’s people who have and people who don’t, and what they have isn’t always tied to money.


GOOGLEMAPS VOICE: Turn right. Your destination is five hundred feet on the right.


SARA: Petra Van Damme, formerly Petra Novak, is one of the “haves” in Etta. She runs her own upcycling business online -- Who’da thought Etta, Indiana’s junk would ever be in demand among the prosperous and well-off?


GOOGLEMAPS VOICE: Arrived at your destination.


SARA: All right. I’m about to interview Petra about what happened to her nineteen years ago with Rufus Knobbe. Mr. X -- geez, I need a name for my new fan that doesn’t sound like it came from an old comic book -- says I can’t believe what she tells me. Let’s see what her story is. I don’t want to scare her, don’t want to upset her by pointing a spotlight on her -- She’s expecting coffee with the baby sister of an old friend. Fortunately, Indiana’s a one-party consent state, so recording’s not an issue . . .


GOOGLEMAPS VOICE: Arrived at your destination.

SARA: Yeah, yeah.



SARA: Here we go . . .



PETRA: Sara? Sara McNabb?

SARA: It’s been a long time, Petra.

PETRA: Oh my god! Come in, come in!



SARA: Wow, you still look amazing . . .

PETRA: Oh, please. I don’t want to think about the birthday I’ve got around the corner, just for all the black balloons and stupid “Lordy, Lordy” cards. Grab a seat. The water’s boiling. Your brother said coffee, but there’s a couple teas you might --

SARA: I haven’t had my coffee this morning, so that’s perfect.

PETRA: Sara, please, sit.

SARA: I’m just taking it all in.

PETRA: It’s nothing that great.


SARA: You’re not grinding it yourself --

PETRA: Trust me, once you try this, all the corner shop coffees will be ruined for you.

SARA: Right. The sewer water Lindy mentioned.

PETRA: (Laughs) I must sound like a real snob.


SARA: Hey, you like what you like and you don’t settle.

PETRA: Exactly.

SARA: Is that a French press?

PETRA: The only one in Etta.

SARA: You won’t be offended if I ask for sugar?

PETRA: No. More “disappointed.”

SARA: Oh, then --

PETRA: I’m kidding. I’m not that much of a snob.

SARA: I’ll keep it to just a teaspoon.

PETRA: That ottoman next to you -- flip over the top.

SARA: This? Oh, hey, it makes a little table!

PETRA: A place to set down your coffee cup.

SARA: Oh, wow, this is like the drawer from an old dresser -- one of your upcycles?

PETRA: Probably more “repurpose” than “upcycle,” but yeah. I’ve done a bunch like that.

SARA: This is really something. So, tell me about what you do . . . “Etta Dreaming” -- that’s your business website. I looked it up last night.

PETRA: Yeah, I started it two -- no, three years ago, when I moved back to Etta.

SARA: Wow, this coffee’s good! It’s got this weight to it . . .

PETRA: Right? That’s the oils from the coffee grounds. When you make it drip style, they all get filtered out.

SARA: Now I know what to put on my Christmas list. Okay, so, you find old furniture, clothing -- stuff -- then refurbish and restyle it into pieces you sell online.

PETRA: You have read my website.

SARA: And people all over buy it! How did you decide on an upcycling business? Me, I could never look at an old drawer and decide it could be an ottoman with a flip tabletop.

PETRA: Just like this, what you’re doing. When my ex and I separated, I made that ottoman and some other pieces for myself, just to have furniture. Everybody who came over kept telling me how they wished they could find a place to buy pieces like I made.

SARA: And you ended up back in Etta how?

PETRA: It’s home. Dad’s alone, and getting up there -- he just retired . . . and after my divorce . . . I guess I needed someplace familiar. All we’ve done is talk about me -- what about you?

SARA: My divorce was when I walked away from my job a year ago.

PETRA: Yeah? Good for you. That took some stones. Most people stay in the same miserable work because they’re afraid of what they don’t know is out there.

SARA: Then I moved back in with my mom and started podcasting.

PETRA: Lindy posted about that! You’re making a living at it?

SARA: Like I said, I moved back in with my mom.

PETRA: But it’s building up, right? It takes a while to get a business off the ground. Are you one of those TV/pop culture podcasters? You were always talking Dawson’s Creek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer back in the day. I don’t remember what Lindy said it’s about . . .

SARA: Sooo, that’s the thing . . . my podcast’s the reason I came back. One of my . . . listeners . . . sorta made a connection between me and Etta and brought it up.


SARA: The show’s about true crime. And I came into town to do a segment on Rufus Knobbe.

PETRA: Y’know, I’m going to go to the kitchen and freshen my cup. Do you want another --

SARA: Petra, I had no idea you were still in Etta when I drove in. It was only when I was talking to Lindy last night that I found out you’d moved back. If this is weird --

PETRA: No, no. It was a long time ago.

SARA: It was. But something like that --

PETRA: I brought the carafe. You didn’t say if you wanted any more.

SARA: A little bit, sure.


SARA: I should’ve said something before coming over. Let me catch you up on my mom and --

PETRA: When I moved back, I expected awkward silences and uncomfortable questions. But in three years, you’re the first one to bring it up.

SARA: I’m sorry, Petra, maybe --

PETRA: No. It’s all in the past and it is a story. Ask whatever you want.

SARA: Wow, you’re sure? Okay . . . I was a kid at the time. I guess it was a small town thing, the way nobody said anything in front of me or my friends. For such a big deal for Etta, I never heard any of it -- all ridiculous eighth grade gossip. Just tell me what happened.

PETRA: It was a long time ago, Sara, like I said. You were in, what, seventh grade?

SARA: Eighth.

PETRA: Eighth grade. I was in high school. I was a senior getting ready to graduate and go off to college and leave the whole small-town hometown behind.

SARA: What day was it?

PETRA: Friday. I remember because I had a test that afternoon -- your brother and I studied together for it the night before. I was at Closet Catch --

SARA: I remember that place -- it was that second-hand store where all the moms were dumping their hip-hugger jeans from when they were in their twenties.

PETRA: -- and their croptops and halters and miniskirts -- all the stuff teen girls were buying new at the malls. Anyway, I was in the parking lot, unlocking my car.

SARA: That was your Jeep. The white Liberty.

PETRA: It was a Wrangler.

SARA: Okay . . . I remember when you’d come to pick up Lindy in it. You gave me a ride home from school more than a few times, too.

PETRA: Right, right. That was it. I left the shop, got in my car. I remember throwing my bag in the passenger seat instead of in the back like I usually did. I don’t know why . . . Maybe if I had . . .

SARA: Petra --

PETRA: -- So maybe if I’d put my bag back there . . . my dad always told me to check the car and the back seat before I got in, before even unlocking it. I don’t know why I didn’t . . .

SARA: Because you were a kid.

PETRA: I guess . . . I don’t know how he got in there, maybe I forgot to lock it. How long could he have been waiting back there? I was in the store at least an hour, maybe an hour and a half. Why he picked my car . . . why he picked me . . .

SARA: That never came out?

PETRA: Rufus Knobbe was a schizophrenic drifter, a vagrant who was nothing but trouble here in Etta. And over in Scottsville and in Crosby Pond, too. My dad said he was going to end up hurting somebody someday. He had an arrest record thick enough to -- I put my seatbelt on, put the key in and then, and then . . . I thought I heard something behind me, and before I could turn, I felt something cold slip over my neck, across my throat. I started to look back when it pricked the notch of my collarbone. Out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed wild beard and stringy gray hair. “Keep Quiet. Keep looking forward,” he muttered in my ear. My heart was pounding. Felt like it would give out any second. “Start it and drive,” he said. I felt the point of what he was holding at my throat -- I found out later it was a big pair of scissors that he must have stolen someplace -- I felt it bite on my throat. My heart pounded even worse. My hands, they were shaking so bad, I didn’t think I could turn the key in the ignition --

SARA: You know, you really don’t . . .

PETRA: I do. You ever have a movie or a song that, once you start it, you, you need to go all the way to the end?

SARA: Yeah. I’ve got a couple of those.

PETRA: This one’s mine. The engine kicked over and I put it in gear. He had me make a right. We drove smack through the middle of Etta, smack through the middle, and I kept hoping someone would see him in the seat behind me. I mean, this was the kind of place where all the neighbor ladies always ratted you out to your folks when they saw or suspected anything when you were out with your friends, right? There was one old bag who was convinced she saw me holding a beer below the window of my car when I was out driving one night with your brother. Think about it -- below the window!

SARA: How could she have seen it?

PETRA: Exactly. She stood on our front steps for twenty minutes telling my mom and dad until Dad finally promised her he’d have me blow a breathalyzer next time. Just to get her to leave. Where was she when that hobo was holding something sharp to my throat in broad daylight? I couldn’t understand why no one noticed, no one did anything for me when . . . . No one noticed. He made me make another turn, and I nearly threw up when I realized he was taking me to the interstate.

SARA: And once he got you on the interstate?

PETRA: Again, what I get for not listening to my dad. He always said never to let anyone take you to a second location, that that’s where they have all the control and really bad things happen, that you’re better off fighting or running at the first scene. But I was so scared. He surprised me. He surprised me, and I didn’t . . .

SARA: You didn’t. That’s okay.

PETRA: At that point I was sure I’d end up raped and murdered and my body dumped in a ditch after I was raped and murdered. That’s all I could think about. I just started crying, wiping my eyes so I could see the road. He kept telling me to shut up.

SARA: What was Rufus doing?

PETRA: He’d just tell me to shut up when it got bad for me.

SARA: I mean, was he worried? Was he keeping his head down to try to stay out of sight? Was he looking around for where to take you?

PETRA: I don’t know.

SARA: So he was staying low?

PETRA: I don’t know. I couldn’t see him behind me. I had no rear view mirror in that car half the time.

SARA: I’m sorry, I’m not following.

PETRA: Your brother. About six months before, around Thanksgiving, he was doing something stupid when we were out, adjusting the mirror, and it came off in his hand, right off the glass. He felt bad and I laughed. He picked up the glue you’re supposed to use, but that mirror never stayed on after that. It would just drop off on its own, and I was always reattaching it.

SARA: It came off that afternoon?

PETRA: Sometime before that. I just tucked it under the seat. So I couldn’t see whatever Rufus was doing back there. I couldn’t see him -- I wish I’d asked you to do this later. I could use a drink right now.

SARA: You’re not the only one.

PETRA: He just kept us driving and driving. We didn’t change highways ever, just stayed on the same one for over a hundred miles. To this day, I don’t know if he had a place in mind when we started, or if was just looking for someplace that whole time. It was like two hours he had me in the car. I -- I even tried speeding for a while, to see if I could get pulled over

SARA: You needed to be closer to Etta for that.

PETRA: I drove slow in the left lane, too, besides speeding. Then, you know, after two hours, I hear him, “There. Get off there.” And those scissors pressed tighter on my throat. He told me to slow down. He was looking. He made me turn and then turn again until we found this dirt road. It was all trees and farm fields. And I knew, I knew, I was going to be raped and murdered and left in a ditch. He told me to stop. I did. He told me to turn off the car. I did. He told me to undo my seatbelt and get out. I did that, and when I opened the door he took the scissors off my neck and stabbed the point into my shoulder. I screamed, I screamed and he told me to shut up and there’d be more if I didn’t do exactly as he said. He pulled the scissors back and I saw one chance. I jumped out, slammed the door, and ran for this grove of trees.

SARA: He didn’t get out first? Or open his door at the same time?

PETRA: That Wrangler was a two-door. You had to let the front seat forward to get out of the back. I didn’t even look. I ran. I kept running. Through the trees, the bushes, I kept running and running until I came out the other side to a corn field. I couldn’t hide in it -- it was too early. The stalks were still small, shorter than me. But then I saw the barn and the farmhouse, and I ran. The lady that lived there, I saw her on her porch and screamed for help. She freaked out, I guess because I was freaked out, and all the blood.

SARA: But you got her to call the police.

PETRA: Yeah. They came. They found my car but no sign of Rufus. They called my parents. Dad blazed in with the red lights on all the way from Etta. I was a wreck. They were wrecks.

SARA: But you got away before . . .

PETRA: I got away before.

SARA: They caught Rufus the next week, right?

PETRA: Yeah. In Scottsville. Almost two weeks later.

SARA: A hundred miles back to Etta, plus some. That’s a long way for a guy with only the shirt on his back and a pair of scissors.

PETRA: I don’t know anything about that. Probably hitchhiked.

SARA: Something like that has to affect you. I remember you still graduated with Lindy.

PETRA: Yeah, they kinda go easy on you after something like that. I graduated. And I went off to college, as planned. I lost my mom almost exactly two years later.

SARA: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to --

PETRA: She’d been sick for a long time, so it wasn’t exactly unexpected. But Dad . . . he held everything together. Got mom to every medical appointment, never missed a parent-teacher conference, kept food on the table and the lights on through it all.

SARA: Petra, I . . . you didn’t have to live that all over again like you did. I’m sorry you . . . thank you, okay? Thank you for going through it again, just to tell me . . .

PETRA: I’ve lived with this for almost twenty years. I’ve got to be okay with it. I’ve got to be okay with it, or . . .

SARA: Look, I’ve made a mess of your morning, and I think I’d better just get out of your day now.

PETRA: Finish your coffee, at least.

SARA: Like you said, I wish we’d done this later in the day -- and had something else to drink.

PETRA: How long are you going to be in town?

SARA: I was planning on a week. Maybe ten days. Kinda depends on how long Lindy can put up with me.

PETRA: Well, before you go, here.

SARA: Oh, we’re hugging.

PETRA: We were almost like family back then. It was good to see you again. Let’s get that later-in-the-day thing in before you head back for Cincy.

SARA: Sounds great. And I’m buying.

PETRA: Yeah you are.

SARA & PETRA: (Laugh)


SARA: All right, I’ll get your number from Lindy.

PETRA: Sounds great.

SARA: Bye. And thanks again.

PETRA: It’s no problem. No problem at all



SARA: Whew . . .


SARA: Knowers, after that, I don’t know how TV reporters do hidden camera stories.


SARA: Gotta talk to Lindy . . .




LINDY: Welcome to Repair App! I’ll be right with you.

SARA: Lindy, it’s me.

LINDY: Sara. In that case, gimme a minute.


SARA: Whaddaya got goin’ on over there? Oh, wow, you’ve got that phone pulled all the way apart.

LINDY: It needs a new battery. Smart phones are all set up in layers, and the battery’s usually one of the bottom ones. It looks scary, but once you know --

SARA: That’s kinda true of everything.

LINDY: True. Let me just solder this one connection and . . . and okay. So, what’s up? That wasn’t a very long coffee.

SARA: Felt like it was all day.

LINDY: I bump into Petra sometimes, but we haven’t sat and talked --

SARA: Tell me about her old Jeep and the rear view mirror.

LINDY: That thing. What brought that up?

SARA: She was reminiscing. You’re apparently to blame, and you’re my brother, so she had to tell me all about it.

LINDY: I pulled it off accidentally once. I glued it back in place for her, but it never stayed. I kept putting it back up for her, but she’d find it plopped on the seat every few weeks. One time it fell off while we were sitting at a red light and --

SARA: Do you remember if it was off when Rufus Knobbe abducted her?

LINDY: That was twenty years ago, Sara.

SARA: Do you remember?

LINDY: Actually . . . I do. She gave me a lift home after we studied together that night before -- I was going to walk, but she kinda insisted. I saw the mirror was off again, and I remember thinking I needed to pick up the glue for it and put it up for her over the weekend. And that weekend . . . Why is this important?

SARA: I’m not sure you want to know.

LINDY: Sara.

SARA: It’s . . . I don’t know. Not yet.

LINDY: What did Petra say?

SARA: I’m going to go back to your place, do some research. I want to be sure. What time do you close this place, five?


SARA: I promise, I’ll fill you in on everything.

LINDY: If you’re in any trouble --

SARA: Not yet.

SARA: So I’ll see you after six. I’ll handle dinner, and we’ll talk then.

LINDY: Okay. Oh, wait -- where’s my phone? Here it is . . .


SARA: What are you doing?

LINDY: You’ll need an alarm code to get in the house. What’s your favorite four-digit number?


SARA: Uh, 1-8-8-8.

LINDY: A little repetitive, but okay. What is that?

SARA: The year Jack the Ripper began his killing spree in London.

LINDY: I shoulda guessed. It’s your passcode for the house now.

SARA: You can do all that from your phone?

LINDY: Got to know how it works to sell it. I can even check the cameras outside from here, too. See?

SARA: I don’t know if that’s cool or creepy.

LINDY: Some of both. Call me if there’s anything.

SARA: I’ll see you at home later.




SARA: Hercule Poirot makes this all look so easy.


SARA: Must be the moustache. Knowers, it’s starting to feel like I’ve had a basketball-sized knot of Christmas lights dropped in my lap to untangle. There’s a lot to this, I can feel it.


SARA: I can’t say what happened nineteen years ago, or what it means now --


SARA: -- but I’ll tell you this much: without a doubt, Petra Van Damme is lying.

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